A conquest game featuring “dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs, and even humans,” Small World stands out in part because, unlike a lot of designer games, it works well with just two people. Players compete by trying to wipe their opponents off the face of the earth, which, as the title suggests, is too small to fit them all.
Ticket to Ride
One of the more popular titles to emerge from the board game renaissance, this railroad-building game by former Beverly resident Alan Moon consists of a large map of North America, 225 train cars, and a deck of cards. It is simple enough to learn in three minutes, but strategically engaging enough that some elite players have reportedly played through it 60,000 times. Moon has said it was designed to make players choose at every turn between “greed and fear.”
Distinctive for its “cooperative” game play, in which players work as a team instead of competing, Forbidden Island puts players in the role of adventurers gathering treasure on an island before it sinks. The game was born when its Newton-based publisher asked the designer Matt Leacock to come up with something similar to his popular game Pandemic, but with a theme more family-friendly than “diseases destroying the world.”
Funded through Kickstarter, this game by the Arlington-based indie design studio Asmadi Games takes just 20 minutes to play. The premise is that a king has died, and now rival pretenders to the throne must strategically compete for his spot by garnering loyalty within the kingdom.
Settlers of Catan
The big kahuna. Players build up their bases on an island by trading resources such as grain, lumber, and brick. Since its release in the United States in 1995, Klaus Teuber’s masterpiece has come closer than any other designer board game to breaking through to the mainstream.